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In this Morning Brief, we open with a brand new episode of ‘The Insider’, the INESC Brussels HUB podcast, featuring Jana Kolar, the Chair of ESFRI, a publication by ALLEA urging academia for significant changes to reach sustainability, an interactive publication by Eurostat on energy, news about Switzerland’s search for new research partners as Horizon Europe exclusion continues, hydrogen continues to be a highly discussed topic in the European Union as the Commission supports industry commitment to boost it, the Parliament gives the EU a push to move faster on artificial intelligence, and more!  

Any comments or suggestions, hit me up with an email on teresa.carvalho@inesc.pt.

In today's Morning Brief:

In today’s Morning Brief:

‘The Insider’ – New episode with Jana Kolar, the Chair of ESFRI

Don’t miss this brand new episode of The Insider. Jana Kolar is the current Chair of ESFRI – the European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures. ESFRI has just celebrated 20 years and has had a crucial role in promoting a strategic approach across Europe towards selection and funding of research infrastructures. The importance of the contribution of ESFRI for strategic thinking, not just in research infrastructures, but in Research and Innovation more broadly along these last 20 years is often overlooked. But what is the future holding and how is ESFRI addressing it?

Jana is also one of the most engaging and interesting persons to talk to. It is always a huge pleasure to have these conversations and debates with her and you will surely want to hear this one.

We explore the unique path towards the establishment of CERIC, the RI that Jana is the Executive Director of, but also the vision for Jana’s 2-year first mandate in ESFRI as Chair. We went deep into the challenges of rethinking how to properly develop a landscape and gap analysis across knowledge domains, the importance of impact, sustainability and funding synergies, among others.

Click here to listen to it. 


Academia needs ‘significant changes’ to reach sustainability

Higher education and research institutions need a change in attitude towards their climate impact to move to reduce emissions, according to a new report by the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities (ALLEA).

The report, which looks the environmental impact of different types of research organizations, suggests significant changes must take place before the academic system can reach climate sustainability. The biggest source of pollution in terms of greenhouse gas emissions is academics’ habit to travel to meetings and conferences by plan. To address the issue, the authors highlight the importance of virtual interactions. 

Other sources of emissions include supercomputing, buildings, electricity, and supply-chain emissions, which in certain sectors are responsible for more pollution than air travel.

Read the report here.


Interactive publication on energy: 2022 edition

Where does our energy come from? How dependent are we on energy imports? Which kind of energy do we consume in the EU and how much does it cost? Are we efficient in the consumption of energy? How much greenhouse gas do we emit in the EU?

Answers to these questions and to many more can be found in the updated 2022 edition of Eurostat’s interactive publication Shedding light on energy in the EU. This interactive publication presents information about the energy sector in a user-friendly way and features short texts and dynamic infographics.

Access the publication here.


Swiss on the hunt for new research partners outside the EU as Horizon Europe exclusion continues

According to Science|Business, “Switzerland has announced a slew of new research funding initiatives, designed in large part to compensate for its continued exclusion from the EU’s Horizon Europe framework programme. As well as replicating the Horizon calls from which it is excluded, the country has said it wants to strike more research deals with countries outside the EU and to bolster its research prowess in quantum and space research. Due to a broader diplomatic stalemate over Bern’s wider relationship with Brussels, Switzerland is not currently associated to Horizon Europe, meaning its researchers cannot apply to individual grants like those from the European Research Council, and must find their own money to join consortia. “I’m aware that the current situation for researchers and innovators in Switzerland is challenging,” admitted education, research and innovation state secretary Martina Hirayama in a press conference on 5 May announcing the measures. Switzerland has already said it will stump up money for researchers to participate in consortia, and created its own equivalent versions of ERC and other grants.”.


Future of Europe: Conference Plenary agrees to final set of proposals

On 29 and 30 April, the Conference on the Future of Europe Plenary session met for the last time and agreed to a set of 49 detailed proposals covering a wide range of subjects from climate change to health, migration and the EU in the world. This follows a yearlong exceptional journey of discussions, deliberations and collaboration by citizens from across Europe, on the kind of Europe they would like to live in.

The representatives of the European Parliament, the Council, the Commission and representatives from national Parliaments expressed consensus on the proposals. The citizens participating in the Plenary also expressed their positions on these proposals.

Vice-President for Democracy and Demography, Dubravka Šuica, as a co-chair of the Conference, led the Commission’s contribution in implementing this major deliverable of the current mandate. She said: “Our Conference is in its final chapter. I am proud to say that by working together during this innovative process in deliberative democracy, we are collectively delivering concrete results. Our engaged and inspiring citizens have shown us the direction they wish Europe to take. Now it is our task, of the EU Institutions, to make it happen. In the wake of the pandemic and with the reality of a brutal war of aggression on European soil, it has been more important than ever to witness democracy at work and citizens in action.”

Read the press release here.


CO2 Reduction Potential of the Chemical Industry through Carbon Capture and Utilization (CCU)

Renewable Carbon Initiative (RCI), CO2 Value Europe (CVE) and nova-Institute published a study showing the CO2 reduction potential of the chemical industry through CCU.

In an exploratory scenario, the study “CO2 reduction potential of the chemical industry through CCU” investigates the greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions that can be achieved in the global chemical and derived material industries if the entire demand for embedded carbon is met solely and exclusively via CO2 instead of from fossil sources. Major simplifications are used to achieve transparency and comprehensibility of the issue. Methanol (CH3OH) is considered to cover the needs for hydrocarbons for chemicals and derived materials among the various chemical intermediates as a representative pathway for renewable carbon. It is a plausible scenario to assign methanol a central role in supplying the chemical industry of the future.

Find out more information here.

Read the study here


EU and US move to control risk of dangerous pathogens escaping from labs

According to Science|Business, “A flurry of new reports and directives in the EU and US have begun to address the risk of dangerous pathogens escaping from scientific labs, as observers worry lax safety and security standards could trigger a new pandemic. The European Commission has ordered member states to regularly review lab safety standards, while a key US government science agency has suggested bringing in new grants to study bio risk in research institutions. As the pandemic’s emergency phase draws to an apparent end in most of the world, policymakers are drawing up ways to make sure it doesn’t happen again. While the majority view is that SARS-CoV-2 was transmitted from animals to humans, the lingering suspicion that the virus could have escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology has focused minds on reducing the possibility of such a leak and on the need for stricter lab controls. “The increasing risk of a catastrophic accidental release from one of these laboratories means regulators must implement changes now before a disaster occurs,” concluded the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefence, a US body led by two senior former politicians, in a report released in April. Smallpox, anthrax and contagious strains of influenza have all escaped from labs, it points out. For example, despite the eradication through vaccination of smallpox in the 1970s, a sample escaped from a lab in the UK and killed a medical photographer in 1978, triggering a panic that the disease could return. And the broader scientific literature is replete with examples of accident-triggered outbreaks. Risk tolerance in labs handling biological threats “should be comparable to that of air travel”, the commission’s report says. But labs are notoriously cagey about making public when accidents have occurred, fearing reputational damage. As a result, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention should work with US high security labs to incentivise the reporting of mishaps, it says.”.


EFCA and EUSPA formalize inter-agency cooperation related to the maritime domain

The European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) and the European Union Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA) have signed a cooperation agreement in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), concluded for an initial duration of two years.

EFCA and EUSPA share common objectives with regards to safer, more sustainable and efficient maritime operations. This cooperation will further strengthen EFCA’s capabilities when it comes to modern and emerging technologies and services, which could be made available to Member States fisheries control authorities. This would lead to an improved capacity for detecting, identifying and categorisation of suspected non-compliance fishing activities, providing additional tools for the operational activities coordinated by EFCA.

More specifically, EFCA will benefit from the added value of Galileo, the European global navigation satellite system , managed by EUSPA. EFCA and EUSPA have identified some initial EU funded projects which could be of common relevance: Bluebox Porbeagle VMS, on the position of vessels computed with Galileo and authenticated with OS-NMA; and GAMBAS, within the scope of search and rescue activities.

As part of its work, EFCA assesses the added value of innovative vessel detection and earth observation technologies offered by Copernicus in support of maritime surveillance and fisheries control activities. Given the operational reality and specificities of fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance, and its connection with the EU Maritime Security Strategy, EFCA as a central hub, seeks to further develop and expand its services in support of Member States fisheries control authorities.

EUSPA will offer its technical expertise in satellite navigation as well as its market knowhow in GNSS and Earth Observation to produce together with EFCA joint studies and develop space solutions that will positively contribute to the EU’s blue economy.

Read more here.


Hydrogen: Commission supports industry commitment to boost by tenfold electrolyser manufacturing capacities in the EU

Yesterday, Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton and European electrolyser manufacturers met in Brussels to discuss how to increase industry’s capacity to produce electrolysers used to produce clean hydrogen. The Commissioner and 20 industry CEOs signed a Joint Declaration whereby industry committed to a tenfold increase of its electrolyser manufacturing capacities by 2025. This will enable the annual EU production of 10 million tons of renewable hydrogen by 2030, set as target in the March 2022 REPowerEU Communication. It will improve Europe’s sustainable and secure energy supply and reduce EU’s reliance on Russian gas.

Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton, said: “Clean hydrogen is indispensable to reduce industrial carbon emissions and contribute to our energy independence from Russia. We have no time to lose, which is why this European electrolyser summit is so opportune. Today, industry agreed to a tenfold increase in electrolyser manufacturing capacities in Europe. The Commission will support this important industrial upscaling for an industrial leadership in the clean energy technologies of the future.”

The Joint Declaration sets out a target agreed by electrolyser manufacturers in Europe to increase their manufacturing capacity tenfold to 17.5 GW per year. It also features Commission actions to put in place a supportive regulatory framework, facilitate access to finance and promote efficient supply chains.

Read more here.


Parliament gives EU a push to move faster on artificial intelligence

According to Science|Business, “The European Parliament on Tuesday adopted a report on artificial intelligence, which sets out a list of demands to secure the EU’s position in AI, and points to research as one of the key means to achieving that goal. MEPs warn the EU must move quickly to set clear rules for AI if it wants to have a say in the future of the technology. “We have the opportunity to set global standards,” said Parliament’s rapporteur for the file, Axel Voss, speaking in the final plenary debate. “If we allow ourselves to lose leadership position, we will resign ourselves to the status of digital colonies subjugated to other regions that don’t share our values.” The report is the culmination of a year and a half of work by the Parliament’s special committee on AI. It will feed into work on the upcoming AI Act, the first major AI regulation globally, which will set rules for AI uses according to their level of risk. As things stand, the US is leading the AI race in terms of investment, research and attracting talent while its companies spearhead technology development. China is behind the US, but catching up. The EU has a long way to go to, but policymakers believe with clear regulations and an investment push it can catch up with competitors. The aim is to increase public and private investment to €20 billion by the end of the decade. Today, it stands at €14 billion. While Parliament wants to see more money flowing to research, it says clear rules may need to come first. “The number one barrier certainly is market fragmentation, which in turn affects investment and research. Without a truly harmonised digital single market, the resulting lack of cross-border investment and also cross-border data exchange prohibit innovation of any kind,” Voss told Science|Business. Parliament’s vision for fixing the issue, as set out in the report, starts with increased EU investment in AI and other key technologies, supported by a strategic roadmap. Parliament wants member states to boost investment too, both within their national budgets and through strengthening the EU research and digital programmes, Horizon Europe and Digital Europe.”.


Finding the missing links of black hole astronomy

The weirdness exhibited by black holes boggles the mind. Formed when a star burns all its nuclear fuel and collapses under its own gravitation, black holes are such oddities that at one time, even Einstein didn’t think they were possible.

They are regions in space with such intense gravitation that not even light escapes their pull. Once magnificent shining stars burn out and shrink to a relatively tiny husk, all their mass is concentrated in a small space. Imagine our Sun with its diameter of roughly 1.4 million kilometres shrinking to a black hole the size of a small city just six kilometres across. This compactness gives black holes immense gravitational pull. Not only do they trap light, black holes can shred any stars they encounter and even merge with each other. Events like this release bursts of energy that are detectable from billions of light years away.

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2020 was shared by scientists who discovered an invisible object at the heart of the Milky Way that pulls stars towards it. This is a supermassive black hole, or SMBH, and it has a mass that is millions of times that of our sun.

‘At the heart of every massive galaxy, we think there is a supermassive black hole,’ said astrophysicist Dr Kenneth Duncan at the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh, UK. ‘We also think they play a really important role in how galaxies form, including the Milky Way.’

Read more here.


European Global Navigation Satellite System Service Demonstrator

The European Union Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA) has issued a Prior Information Notice (PIN) for a planned call to develop the European GNSS Service Demonstrator (ESD) providing a centralised platform for the demonstration of new and enhanced end-to-end European Global Navigation Satellite System (EGNSS) services.

The European Commission is currently specifying the long-term evolution of the EGNSS programme, including new services for Galileo and European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service. The European GNSS Service Demonstrator (ESD) will support Galileo and EGNOS evolution by providing a centralised platform for the demonstration of new and enhanced end-to-end EGNSS services.

The ESD shall deliver preoperational EGNSS signals and data that can be easily and openly accessed by users with the appropriate equipment to test the new/enhanced services in realistic conditions, validate the correct implementation of receiver interfaces and standards and anticipate and support the development of new applications.

The ESD will receive data from various sources (e.g. GNSS sensor station data) and rebroadcast data from various sources(e.g. Satellite Based Augmentation System DFMC data, high accuracy data); compute EGNSS data and corrections by providing a pre-operational DFMC SBAS open service signal (for non-safety of life usage) over Europe primarily, and potentially over a part of Africa; disseminate EGNSS data via various broadcast means (e.g. SiS through EGNOS GEOs, internet). The contractor may be requested to carry out additional activities such as developing additional kernels or integrating or interfacing with external kernels (e.g. high accuracy kernel, authentication kernel, emergency warning service kernel, internet of things kernel, Open Service Navigation Message Authentication service evolution kernel, etc.). The scope of the procurement will also cover the provision of engineering support services.

More information about the Prior Information Notice (PIN) can be found here.


European Institute of Innovation and Technology to consolidate support in less innovative regions

According to Science|Business, “The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) plans to set up one-stop-shops for its services across Europe’s less innovative regions, most of which lie in eastern and central Europe. These regions are part of the Regional Innovation Scheme (RIS), where in recent years EIT has been working to strengthen local innovation capacities. Now, it wants to maximise its presence by giving innovators easier access to training, funding, guidance on launching start-up and other services. “The main thing we want to ensure is impact,” said Luke Incorvaja, EIT strategy officer. “We want to be seeing an increasing number of RIS country-based ventures reaching commercial success, an increasing number of students graduating from EIT programmes.” Two pilots will be launched in Latvia and North Macedonia. As things stand, there are 90 hubs run by the EIT’s eight (soon to be nine), knowledge and innovation communities that are scattered around the RIS countries. In Latvia, for example, there are six or seven hubs, ranging from health to food focused ones, and its innovators may be confused about where to go to get help. In North Macedonia there are no hubs, though there is a national contact point that people can go to for support. Under the plan, hubs representing all eight communities will be established in the two countries by the end of the year, in a bid to ensure EIT is better positioned to reach innovators looking to access EU funded services, and to guide coordination between the existing local hubs. By the end of 2024, the EIT hopes to have these hubs all around the RIS regions.”.


Webinars for Applicants and Participants in EU-Projects

The European Commission offers 4 webinars in May and June on various topics of relevance for those involved in or applying for EU projects:

Lump-sum funding in Horizon Europe – 19 May 10-12h: Lump-sum funding is becoming increasingly popular across Horizon Europe and you may well end up applying for a topic with this funding mechanism.

Horizon Results Booster – 25 May 10-12:30h: Learn about this new service to support you with the dissemination and exploitation of project results.

Grant Agreement Preparation – 15 June 9:30 – 12:45h: This webinar is targeted to new coordinators of Horizon Europe projects and those who work closely with them.

Personnel costs in Horizon 2020 – 22 June 10-12h: Get a refresher on how to avoid errors in declaring personnel costs in your running project.

The webinars can be accessed via the links. No registration is needed.

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